Jose Pirela

Phillies get to Dallas Keuchel this time around, hold on to win series opener over Braves

Phillies get to Dallas Keuchel this time around, hold on to win series opener over Braves

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ATLANTA — The Phillies kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 5-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night.

The Phils got two-run homers from Rhys Hoskins and Jose Pirela — both against Atlanta’s Dallas Keuchel — and Vince Velasquez and the bullpen held the Braves to two runs over the final eight innings. All in all, it was a good way to open an 11-game road trip.

The Phillies’ bullpen survived two late homers as the Braves made it a one-run game.

Hector Neris allowed a leadoff homer in the bottom of the ninth and got the final two outs of the game with runners on the corners.

The standings

The Phillies entered the night five games out in the NL wild-card race. The victory left them with a chance to pull to within four games of the second wild-card playoff spot depending on the outcome of the Chicago Cubs-Cincinnati Reds game.

The Phils have 13 games left. They are 77-72 overall. They need five wins to have their first winning season since 2011.

Velasquez’ night

Though he lasted only five innings, Velasquez did a pretty good job for the Phillies. He had a tough first inning in which he threw 30 pitches and that prompted early action in the Phillies’ bullpen. But the right-hander maintained his composure and held the Braves to just two runs in the inning. It could have been worse, but Velasquez’ ability to limit damage was huge.

After the first inning, Velasquez racked up four scoreless innings and held the Braves to two hits.

Keuchel’s night

The left-hander who had been passed over by the Phillies earlier in the season came into the game on a big roll — five straight wins in which he’d allowed a total of just four runs.

Keuchel sailed through the first three innings then allowed a pair of infield hits and a pair of two-run homers as the Phillies rallied for five in the fourth inning to take the lead.

Hoskins hits one

There have been times this season when Hoskins has looked pull-happy at the plate. He’s a better hitter when he uses the whole field like he did in the fourth inning when he clubbed a two-run homer to right-center to tie the game at 2-2. It was his 29th homer of the season and first solidly to the opposite field. He had four opposite-field homers last season.

Hoskins did a good job staying back on a high changeup to the outside part of the plate from Keuchel. He hit the ball right where it was pitched. He has homered in back-to-back games and has nine since the All-Star break.

Pirela rewards Kapler

Looking to get right-handed bats in the game against Keuchel, manager Gabe Kapler started Sean Rodriguez at third base and Pirela in left field. (Kapler did not start Maikel Franco at third because he did not believe Franco would fare well against Keuchel’s sinker.) Pirela rewarded his manager’s faith with a two-run homer with two outs in the fourth. He had previously been 0 for 5 with two strikeouts against Keuchel.

Braves set team mark

Adeiny Hechavarria’s home run in the eighth was the Braves’ 236th of the season, a team record.

Phillies pitchers have allowed 238 homers this season. That is a team record. The old one was 221.

Up next

Zach Eflin (8-12, 4.20) opposes right-hander Julio Teheran (10-9, 3.50) on Wednesday night.

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Phillies begin weekend by setting a record they'd have preferred not to

Phillies begin weekend by setting a record they'd have preferred not to

NEW YORK — When Jose Pirela stepped to the plate in the top of the second inning Friday night, he became a part of Phillies history.

History that the Phillies definitely preferred not to make in 2019.

Pirela, who walked in his first plate appearance to load the bases, became the franchise-record 55th player used by the Phils this season, breaking the team record of 54 set in 1996. The Phillies have already used seven more players than they did last season.

And it likely won't end at 55. When catcher Deivy Grullon makes his first pinch-hit appearance, he will be No. 56. 

The Phillies have been forced to use this many players because of injuries. The Phils have lost 27 players to the injured list this season — most in the National League by three and second-most in the majors behind only the Yankees.

In total, the Phillies had lost 1,641 player games to injury entering Friday's game. Phillies players on the injured list have earned more than $40,000,000 this season.

Pirela got the start Friday night in left field against Mets lefty Steven Matz. Manager Gabe Kapler liked the matchup because Pirela is a .289 career hitter with a .808 OPS against lefties.

Pirela and starting third baseman Maikel Franco were not set to play the whole game. It's the time of year when Kapler is frequently removing hitters and pitchers to gain every incremental matchup-based advantage. He kind of has to, given the lack of talent in the middle and back-end of the Phillies' roster.

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Why Phillies traded for Jose Pirela; why they could soon use a 5-man bench

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Why Phillies traded for Jose Pirela; why they could soon use a 5-man bench

It wasn't the big trade Phillies fans have been waiting for, but the Phillies on Saturday acquired utilityman Jose Pirela from the Padres in exchange for cash.

It's a depth move. Pirela is a 29-year-old with 290 games of big-league experience. The bulk of his playing time has come at second base and left field but the Phillies also feel comfortable playing him at both corner infield and corner outfield spots.

Pirela had been mashing at Triple A El Paso in the Padres' system. In 242 plate appearances, he hit .353/.401/.674 with 18 home runs. Those numbers should not be ignored but they also should not be overblown — most Pacific Coast League ballparks are launching pads, and that league is using the same baseballs as the majors that have been flying over fences at a record pace.

Pirela will report to Triple A Lehigh Valley but could find himself up with the Phillies soon.

"We believe we are going to be playing meaningful games in September, and we want those guys who come up and contribute to be experienced with big at-bats," manager Gabe Kapler said. "[Pirela] had them both with the Yankees and with the Padres and has had some success."
 
"We've learned this, that any acquisition we bring in we'd like to have some pretty good teammate behavior. There was some good work done on him. A native Spanish speaker and a guy that will get along with his teammates. Excited across the board on having Pirela with us."

Five-man bench?

The Phillies could be welcoming both Jay Bruce (oblique) and Brad Miller (hip) back soon. When that happens, Nick Williams will likely be optioned back to Triple A and Sean Rodriguez could be designated for assignment. 

Or, the Phillies could finally utilize a five-man bench. They have opted to carry an extra reliever over an extra bench bat for the entirety of Kapler's two-year run as manager, but on Saturday Kapler said they are giving the five-man bench legit consideration as a short-term option.

"I could see it being more of a bridge-the-gap (option)," Kapler said. "I don't personally think a five-man bench is best for us long term because of the way we will aggressively use our bullpen. And the more high-leverage weapons we have in our bullpen, the better. 

"Right now, one of the reasons it makes sense to consider a five-man bench is because it looks like we are carrying some lower-leverage bullpen arms. Generally and globally, it's very rare that we say, 'I wish that we had one more bench player. I wish we had one more guy to take down a big at-bat.' But it comes up more frequently, 'Man, I'd like to have one more bullpen arm to use, even if it is just a body to take down a couple of innings from time to time.' 

"But we have been pretty close to having a five-man bench for a shorter period of time and I can see that happening in the next 10 days to two weeks for a short period."



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